Sunday Discussion: What Next at Catcher?

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The Sox kicked off their holiday shopping by acquiring David Ross. With three big-league-capable catchers on the roster, it's decision time.

Raise your hand if you figured the first acquisition of the offseason would be a catcher. Actually, don't, I can't see your hands and odds are you're lying anyway. With holes at first base, shortstop, the corner outfield spots, and the rotation, Boston would seem to have bigger priorities than picking up a third catcher. And yet here they are, having signed David Ross to a two-year, $6 million deal. Ross joins Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway as the backstops on the 2013 40-man roster. Now, odds are strong that Boston won't go into 2013 with three catchers, so where does this leave the club?

Basically, there are three options. First, the Red Sox could go with some form of Salty-Ross platoon, presumably with Ross getting the bulk of starts against left-handed hitters (or teams with particularly good running games, as he is quite solid in controlling basestealers), and sending Lavarnway back to Pawtucket for another season. This keeps the team's depth intact, as Lavarnway would be a 40-minute drive on I-95 away if anything happened to Salty or Ross. It allows the Red Sox to let Lavarnway master the skills of catcher defense in an environment where he won't cost the big-league club any wins. Additionally, it leaves open the possibility of making a trade sometime during the 2013 season.

Second, the club could commit to the same Salty-Ross platoon and trade Lavarnway. This plan has two major advantages. For one thing, we'd go into 2013 knowing pretty much exactly what we'd get out of the catcher position. Ross's track record is very steady, and Salty pretty much is what he is at this point. Good power, too many strikeouts, but overall better than most catchers at hitting. The other advantage is that Lavarnway is almost certainly worth more in a trade than Salty. He's still completely under team control, and will be for six years. Salty's entering his final arb year. And as previously stated, Salty has basically established his ceiling. He smacked 25 home runs (the team lead, which pains me) and struck out 139 times in 121 games. Great? No. But useful. Lavarnway's all upside. His numbers in the minors suggest a potential offensive monster, and teams with time to let him figure out major-league pitching might give up a lot to acquire him.

That upside, of course, leads to the third option: go with a Lavarnway-Ross platoon at catcher, and trade Saltalamacchia. As already stated, Salty's a known quantity, which has value to teams looking to contend soon. The Rangers, Nationals, Rays, A's, Pirates, and Mets all got worse production out of their catchers than Boston, and Saltalamacchia would be a respectable fix for any of them. It may also be time for Boston to turn Lavarnway loose in the bigs and really find out what he can do. Is he a young Mike Napoli? A slightly cheaper Salty? Another minor-league stud who can't quite make the jump against major-league pitchers? 2013's as good a time to find out as any, with the team in transition and no one really expecting a title run.

So, readers of OTM, how should the Red Sox approach this catching surplus? Chat away.

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